In this Q&A, Steve Watson, the managing director of the Dallas office of executive search firm Stanton Chase International, discusses the changing hiring environment for older workers. While companies have traditionally favored hiring younger IT workers, Watson points out that there is a growing openness on the part of employers to look at more experienced people who demonstrate energy and a willingness to travel and do what it takes to get the job done. In fact, people in their late 50s and early 60s have better opportunities today than they did 10 or 15 years ago, thanks to the demand for experience, leadership and good management skills.
While companies tend to hire younger to get a return on investment, they are also recognizing that if they can get five to 10 years of good performance, then the investment is good. This is different thinking than 15 or more years ago, when companies were really looking for more long-term commitment. Sometimes a company has a pressing need that can best be addressed by hiring a more experienced person. The company may need someone who can quickly grow revenue, enter new markets, take a new product to market, expand globally, develop and lead a young team, implement a new system, integrate a new business, or leverage new technology, and may feel that only someone with a wealth of experience can deliver what is needed. The company may also want the experienced hire to mentor and develop a successor.
The percentage of Americans age 55 or older who are in the labor force has been on the rise since 1993. In 2010, this percentage was the highest it has been since 1975. For older workers who haven't reached retirement age, the higher rate of labor participation can be attributed to an increase in the number of women in the workforce. However, the percentages of both men and women in the workforce who are 65 or older have grown. Education level has a strong correlation with a higher labor-participation rate. The impact of the recent economic downturn on retirement savings, too, has meant that many older workers need to return to the workforce.
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